My grandparents lived in a house which had no furniture. Towards the end of their lives they simply used a plain wooden cot to lie on, and a chair or sofa as seats. Their clothes would fit inside a small suitcase. They never knew that something could be thrown away or wasted. Every object that came into our home would get recycled, reused, or upcycled until it simply decided to disintegrate into shreds and then into atoms. Were they living in destitute conditions? Hardly! They chose to be minimalistic, thrifty and frugal. But they were rich! Rich in the mind and soul! Their home was always open to relatives and friends who migrated from villages to the city. My grandpa would silently place some money every day into the pockets of these new migrants until they got a job. All of us grandchildren loved this couple for their deep affection, integrity and sincerity. My oh my! Were they rich!
On the other hand, I have seen with my eyes, folks aspiring to live beyond their means. Many aspire, too, for objects they cannot afford. A poor person would rather eat white rice and sugar than whole grains and natural whole sweeteners. They love taking injections and popping in over the counter pills than trying to rectify their health. They accept death in fifties as the norm.
Poverty and destitution should probably therefore be studied as follows:
- Are people having a healthy whole food plant based diet?
- Are all family members of reasonable health, even if born with defects or disorders?
- Are they earning enough for taking care of their health, health insurance, skill-based education that would lead to enhanced earning capacities, moderate entertainment to offer succor and peace to the mind?
- Are they sufficiently sheltered and clothed?
- Do their shelters offer them good water, sanitation facilities and light?
- Do their shelters offer them reasonable comfort zones in the micro climate created within their homes?
- Is their environment not polluted beyond tolerable limits such that they do not get affected physically, mentally or spiritually?
- Are they fully aware of the need to lead minimalistic and frugal life?
- Are they having mental practices that keep them protected from stress, anxieties, fear, worry, greed, jealousy and other mental ills?
- Does the work that they do promote sustainability for the planet and society?
- Are the work and the people working, practising inclusivity?
- Are people aware of their legal rights in society?
- Are they leading an honest life?
If answers are positive, such persons are NOT poor. They may be minimalistic, but they definitely are not poor! I however think that a lot of us in this country are poor as we wont have positive answers to the above. In fact many might be in the state of destitution even if some amongst them have money and materials. It is quite clear that material wealth alone does not indicate prosperity. A balance brought in by minimalism can make societies push poverty and destitution away.
Minimalism and frugality are virtues that seem to have their origin with spiritual and environmental groups. The beauty of such virtues is that they do not leave a trail behind that needs fixing! Singapore is a leading example of removing poverty through frugality and minimalism. Every family ends up saving 40 to 50 per cent of their earnings. A few more countries that weave frugality into their lives are Ireland, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
Self reliance on energy seems to be a benefit as can be seen in countries like Saudi Arabia. What might happen once the oil runs out or if wars for oil break the fabric of such countries?
Other countries like Ireland just decided to encourage their citizens to earn, be thrifty and save. Germany has created enough wealth for its citizens and is focussing on higher values to pursue with savings.
A lot depends on what countries choose to focus on for spending. Countries spending on military or prisons have a severe drawback. They are never going to be the savers. Countries where population growth is unchecked would also similarly suffer badly. Countries with divided identities would keep having internal turmoils. Frugality can only be upheld by societies that are smart and understand how vulnerable they are. They would then use their smartness to overcome their vulnerability, not only for today or for themselves alone. But farsighted into the future for all.
I love some of the frugal innovations that happen around the world! MittiCool, a mud-based refrigerator working on evaporative cooling principles is one such. The Honeybee Network started and run by Professor Anil Gupta has discovered so many more such frugal innovations.
In the light of such initiatives taken by a few it does seem but natural to select to be frugal rather than consumeristic, whether you are well-to-do today or poor. Nothing comes out of shooting our own legs by living beyond one’s means in every aspect.
People who are frugal are smart, innovative, concerned about the future of all species and the planet. They understand life without creating unnecessary wastes. They withdraw from being consumeristic and do not develop habits that pay no heed to the welfare of all beings. They are inclusive and do not think of getting into wars and arguments. They adopt non-violent communication methods to resolve differences and to express their positions without violence. They practise emotional intelligence and do not seek instant gratification. They seek utility and efficiency over unreasonable glamour and seek beauty to be expressed from within. They avoid gimmicky traps that will make them consumeristic and seek the company of mature and intellectual people. They defy inexplicable social norms that seek to satisfy herd mentality. They seek to barter, to engage with using sustainable natural resources. They keep abreast of the latest progress in smart thinking and sustainable practices. They share and love open systems.
There is a joke we used to share as children. The story goes like this: a team of scientists wished to invent a writing tool like a pen to write in a low gravity environment like when someone is on the moon. While some scientists wondered about liquids that defied gravity, a simple scientist just said, “Why not use the ordinary pencil?”
The art of getting “more for less for more,” would make frugality a means to remove poverty and destitution for all. I strongly believe that the rich mind is terribly destitute in many ways. I cannot forget the face of a rich lady in a BMW chauffeur-driven car just this morning as I walked up a one kilometre stretch to reach a destination. Her car was coming out of the garage of her palatial home and pausing a bit to take a left turn. I paused on my walk to let her car pass by. She sighed, looking nowhere in particular, then flung her head back on her cushioned seat and looked extremely sad and lonely. I blessed her and wished her well and both of us continued on our journey.
On the other hand the peace my grandparents found in their lives lingers in my heart, making me emulate the same and show by living like they did to others who wish to pause and watch. I know I am contributing to creating assets for the future through Fractal Entrepreneurship. I know that Fractals will bring in Prosperity wherever they spread.
I would love it if you could share your views about my podcast and share it with those you care for and respect. Do write to me at email@example.com with your views.